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Chief Executive on cup tie

30 November 2012

Erik's views on Milton Keynes match

Like a lot of Dons fans, Chief Executive Erik Samuelson feels very uncomfortable about our FA Cup tie on Sunday. But, he says, let’s all be on our best behaviour and make this a day about us, about our own very special club, and its remarkable achievements.


Below we reproduce Erik’s thoughts on the FA Cup second round match that appeared in the programme against Southend United last week.


On Sunday we play our FA Cup Second Round game at Milton Keynes. It is, as I have said in many, many press interviews, a game that was always going to happen someday. Personally, I wish it had happened after I relinquished this role, but so be it.


The most frequent conversation I’ve had in boardrooms over the past few years starts on the lines of “I bet you can’t wait to play them” – this is a game the neutrals want to happen. And it is clear that the media have also been looking forward to this game for some time – was anyone even mildly surprised when it was announced that it is being televised?


For our opponents, it is a wonderful opportunity to present themselves to the world as the wronged ones, a club which offers the hand of reconciliation and is wounded when rejected; an opportunity to issue statements of mild regret about “what happened”, carefully crafted by PR specialists, and a reimagining of history that leaves me almost incredulous at its cheek, until you think of the audacity of presenting the hijacking of another club 60 miles up the M1 as having saved it.


But this opportunity for them is a problem for us. We are in danger of undermining a lot of the goodwill that exists towards us in the football world. If we are not careful, we may be presented as whining, unforgiving, dog-in-the-manger activists who can’t move on.


We mustn’t go there. We should use this as an opportunity to remind everyone just what a brilliant thing we’ve done over the past ten years. And if, while doing so, we slip into the conversation just what happened to force us to undertake this journey, then we’ll do that. But we need to make the coverage about us and what we’ve done, and how well we’ve done it, not about them and what they did to us.


Pretty much every neutral would love us to win the tie. I am regularly told by strangers that they admire what we’ve done and how we’ve gone about it. This support is very important because a club’s reputation is critical to its success, and our reputation comes in no small part from us always seeking to do things the right way, both on and off the pitch.


Because our reputation is so important to us, it is critical that we conduct ourselves well while we are on our way to the game and at the game. Some fans are going because they think that playing them is brilliant. But the overwhelming majority of fans who are going to the game tell me that they are doing so with a heavy heart and a large degree of residual anger. There will be provocations, some deliberate but many unintended. If we react with behaviour that puts our wonderful club in a bad light, the price could be very high. So I appeal to all our fans not to react to provocation and, so far as is possible, to make the game a celebration of what we’ve achieved over the past ten years. I have tried to do the same when I deal with the press.


Finally, if you can’t go or don’t want to go, but do want to watch the game with fellow fans, we’ll be offering you the opportunity to do so at our stadium and arranging some events that will help us to celebrate who we are and what we’ve achieved.


After this match, the focus will return to getting points on the board to help us stay in the Football League. Remember: being here is why we started this club ten and a half years ago.


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